Staking Claims

Sariya smiled encouragingly at them and poked Marcus.

“What?”

“It would be nice to introduce us.”

He grumbled but obeyed, presenting Sariya as  his ‘honoured guest from the far lands’. Sariya knew enough about the world’s geography to be amused at her origins being placed in the area of their maps generally tagged with ‘here be dragons’, ‘unknown’, or ‘travel not advised’.

If anything, this made the trio before them quail further – she was an unknown entity from an equally unknown but generally thought to be terrifying part of the world. Sariya waited to see how he would introduce them to her, he didn’t disappoint.

“Sariya, may I present to you, Lady Penelope, wearing the fade-into-the-background grey dress, Lady Genevieve, who would like to sit down and maybe enjoy a glass of wine, and Lady Aureliana in the pink and white explosion. Added together with Lady Rosarina, who is at spiky as her name suggests, these are the fluffies.”

The three ladies somehow didn’t find anything to remark on in this introduction and bobbed slightly intimidated curtseys.

The queen leaned over and murmured, “They’re used to it, the whole court does it, and they somehow think that calling them ‘fluffies’ is some sort of honour.”

Sariya smiled confusedly and the King broke the awkward stand-off by waving everyone to a seat and summoning the waiter.

There was a general rush towards sharing a seat with Marcus, who unashamedly barricaded himself behind Sariya. They ended up on a sofa, Marcus wedged against the armrest, Sariya in the middle and a slightly dishevelled Lady Aureliana squeezed into the slightly too-tight space on her other side.

Drinks were served and Sariya attempted conversation.

“Please tell me a little bit about yourselves, I’m so new here and it’s all quite confusing, it would be lovely to understand you all a little better.”

She addressed the question primarily to Lady Genevieve as the most likely candidate to get an answer over and done with, and was rewarded with precisely that.

“Well I’m Genevieve and I’m the owner of Rainbow Wings, same as you are for Mav. That’s a very strange name by the way. That’s Penelope, she’s too shy to talk much and she owns Glint. Aureliana owns Pretty Flutterby and Rosarina, who isn’t here has Jewel Sparkle.”

Sariya bit her tongue, hard. The dragons, and Marcus, still picked up on her horrified reaction.

Yes, they think we’re objects to be owned like a necklace, or maybe a puppy. We prefer not to give them any reason to think we’re intelligent at all, let alone smarter than they are. Rosarina in particular would not be nice about it.”

Sariya smiled through gritted teeth, “That’s lovely. And what do you enjoy doing?”

Genevieve looked at her, confused, “Doing? I’m a lady of the court, I don’t do anything, it wouldn’t be proper.”

Lady Aureliana came unexpectedly to the rescue as Lady Penelope shrank further into her seat.

“Oh silly, she means how do you spend your days. You like to go to tea parties and have people read poetry to you. I think they’re nice, but I also love walking in the gardens. The flowers are so pretty but I have to be careful to only go in the ones that match my dress.”

Sariya felt her eyes start to cross and appealed to Lady Penelope in the hope of some form of purpose.

No longer able to avoid speaking, Lady Penelope kept her eyes on the floor as she apologetically admitted to enjoying reading and some needlework.

“Oh but I love reading, what are your favourite kinds of books?”

The response was an incoherent mumble, interrupted by the door being flung open ahead of a fourth young woman,this one in a towering rage.

Marcus smiled sarcastically (Sariya had never realised that was possible), “Ah, Lady Rosarina, so charming of you to join us. Please do take a seat.”

The young woman glared daggers around the room, marched over to the sofa and planted herself in front of Sariya.

“Move.”

Sariya lifted an eyebrow and stayed right where she was.

“I said move you foul little…”

The King interrupted, “If you are not capable of the most simple manners girl, you will be returned to the nursery until you learn them.”

Rosarina snarled and whirled on him, then realised who she was about to scream at. She swallowed and attempted a smile.

“My apologies Your Majesty, it’s simply insupportable to see some little mud crawler in my rightful seat.”

Marcus’s smiled remained fixed in place, “Why Lady Rosarina, if you were so desperate to cuddle up next to Lady Aureliana, you merely had to say. Come my dear, it’s time we retired for the evening anyway.”

He stood, drawing Sariya up with him as the four women paled and gulped like landed fish. Marcus’s parents didn’t try very hard to conceal their amusement and also rose.

“You’re right, it is getting rather late, and we do have an important occasion to look forward to, we must be fully rested.”

With that, the Queen took her husband’s arm and sailed from the room, closely followed by Marcus and Sariya.

Sariya was not expecting Marcus to haul her quickly into the next room as soon as they were out of sight of the four astounded fluffies. He held up a hand for silence from both her and their waiter, who nodded, smirking and motioned them to the interconnecting door and a convenient crack in the side, where he had been able to keep an eye on proceedings and only interrupt when appropriate.

The women were slowly coming out of their shock, Lady Genevieve the first to recover, bursting into laughter.

“Oh Rosarina I think you’re going to have to admit defeat and go home now before you move yourself past redemption. The King actually threatened to send you to the nursery to learn manners. The King!”

Lady Penelope was processing the latter part of the scene, “Were they really retiring together?”

Lady Aureliana was also caught by that aspect, “That implied they were sharing quarters. That would be most indelicate.”

“Unless they were either getting married or already are.”, Lady Penelope’s shock had clearly overpowered her shyness for the moment and showed slightly more brain activity than the other three.

Rosarina rounded on her, “He is not marrying that jumped up little strumpet, he’s marrying me.”

Genevieve entered the fray, “No he’s not, he clearly can’t stand you. He left the room rather than have to sit next to you.”

Sariya rolled her eyes and pulled Marcus away from the door, he came a little reluctantly but returned with her to their rooms.

“Why did you leave in the middle of the battle?”

“Because it’s tedious and pointless. They will understand their position, or rather lack of, at the ball. I’m just trying to decide whether I want to subject any of them other than Rosy Posy to the public humiliation.”

“What are you thinking about doing?”

“Morning tea, one after the other. A reverse of your non-existent progressive dinner if you will. They’ll each meet with me, one on one, tomorrow morning and discuss the current situation. I’ll then decide whether to let them know they’ve lost their dragon then, or in front of the whole court tomorrow night.”

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